Improving distributed battery programs with load control


With last week’s approved expansion of Green Mountain Power’s (GMP) Tesla Powerwall and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) home battery pilot programs and the general movement towards peak demand reduction via distributed resources, the platforms that manage these resources are rapidly rising in importance and necessity.

Resource management software is something not entirely new to GMP. Since November, the utility has been offering to customers a peer-to-peer platform for trading and auctioning energy. The service is powered by LO3, a company that facilitates the sharing of local distributed renewable energy resources. The Vermont Green trading platform allows businesses to run on 100% renewable-generated electricity, without having to invest in construction or enter into long-term power contracts.

On the residential side, a litany of software platforms have emerged which allow customers to manage every aspect of their battery systems, with almost all offering some mix of peak shaving, energy time shifting, renewable integration, EV charging, voltage/frequency support, critical load support and back-up and microgrids. With Tesla’s GMP Powerwall pilot being expanded and Tesla having a resource management platform all of its own, as well as BYOD participants having a wide choice of management platforms, it would appear that GMP has given unrivaled control over energy resources to its customers.

It would appear

Under the guidelines of GMP’s BYOD program, customers acknowledge that, if they install just a battery at their home, “Only the energy in the battery at the time of a grid outage will be available to you for backup power services. Other battery system benefits and services, such as solar self-consumption, load shifting for utility bill management, and other potential future services and benefits will not be available to you.”

The issue is much of the same for solar-plus-storage customers, though those customers also have the option to pair an enrolled battery with self-consumption, meaning that they agree to less lucrative incentives in exchange for more platform management freedom. Incentives for BYOD customers can range anywhere from $19.30-$96.50  monthly, any customer who opts into self consumption receives a flat rate of $9.65 per month, with a $1.35 monthly adder.

While it makes sense for GMP to want to ensure that it has a capable fleet of dispatchable energy available at all times, the all-or-nothing terms that the program is founded upon makes consumers choose between clear-cut incentive benefits or lower compensation but additional system control.

It would appear that the point of contention seems to be ownership of the battery as an asset. Under the BYOD program, the battery is an asset owed by GMP, with the homeowner being incentivized to house that asset and assure its service. Once the battery is used for other purposes, it loses value to GMP because it is no longer an asset that’s entirely theirs to use and manage — it’s an asset serving a customer that GMP also gets some use out of.

Maximizing benefit to both parties

One platform that could potentially bridge that asset ownership and usage gap is naak. Naak aims to take traditional customers and turn them into ‘prosumers’ who use the grid to share and transact energy, according to co-founder Adam Boucher.

What the platform offers, and what Boucher thinks could help to bridge the asset ownership gap between customers and GMP is highly customizable load control. The main objective of the Powerwall and BYOD programs is to ensure that GMP will have dispatchable energy on-hand during times of peak demand. Since peak demand occurrences are somewhat predictable, incentivizing the use of a load management system like naak could ensure that both GMP has power on-hand when necessary and that customers get the most out of their battery system.

“If there’s an event where [GMP] would want to maximize the actual power that was being exported back onto the grid from the battery, you’re not going to get that outcome, with everybody home and using power,” said Boucher. “You’re not gonna get that outcome you want. The way the platform already works in markets that are similar, you can ensure with higher reliability that the grid is going to get what it’s expecting, in terms of exported power.”

The platform allows users to instantaneously turn off the devices in their homes that have the highest power need during these peak events.

According to Boucher, the benefit to GMP would be twofold: the platform would either allow customers to self-consume during these peak events, therefore removing their demand entirely from the grid, or they could turn off all of their highest-load devices, in order to have enough power in the battery to meet GMP’s needs.

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